The current touring version of this Kander & Ebb musical doesn't deliver much in the way of spectacle



Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman, UT campus
Nov. 20

Chicago is the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. That fact is right on the cover of the program and all of the production's marketing materials. It makes sense as to why: At its best, this Kander and Ebb collaboration is a big-time song-and-dance spectacle, the sort that audiences picture when they hear the word "Broadway." That makes it an ideal fit for the Broadway Across America program at Texas Performing Arts: Theoretically, no local production could match the resources available to the touring version of the show, and the chance to see a big-budget rendition of one of the more ubiquitous musicals ever to hit the Great White Way without booking a trip to New York is pretty appealing.

Unfortunately, this Chicago doesn't really deliver the way that audiences might hope on that "spectacle" scale. The singing is often impressive, yes – though impressive singing is relatively common – and the show boasts a few sincerely remarkable dance performances, though they're somewhat metered and don't occur often enough. But the stage, which is a sparse, black box featuring no sets more complicated than the occasional gold curtain, is dull, and the costumes look like they could have been thrifted the weekend after a sexy Halloween party. None of it looks bad, exactly, but spectacle it's not.

The show – for those who have never seen the long-running production in New York or the Academy Award-winning film based on it – tells the story of Roxie Hart (Anne Horak), a showgirl with big dreams who shoots her lover after she catches him two-timing her and subsequently becomes a celebrity behind bars. In jail, she meets other women who have killed men for similar offenses, from the matronly "Mama" Morton (Carol Woods) to "the Hungarian" (Naomi Kakuk), a woman who speaks no English except the words "not guilty," to her fellow sexy celebrity-murderer, Velma Kelly (Terra C. MacLeod). Morton advises Roxie to hire hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn (Seinfeld's John O'Hurley), and soon both she and Velma are competing for the attention of a press that has time for only one sexy lady who kills.

If all that sounds a bit simplistic, well, it is. This production plays all of that as a broad farce, which blunts any possible emotional impact it could have – when the Hungarian is executed for a crime that she may not have committed, we've spent too much time cringing at the racist depiction of a woman whose pronunciation of "not guilty" is played for laughs to care – and leaves nothing to cling to but the spectacle. And since those elements of Chicago are really not all that spectacular, there's not much to remember about this production at all.

More Chicago
Half & Half Productions' immersive staging of the Kander & Ebb musical keeps the joint jumpin' for a full two hours

Adam Roberts, May 30, 2014

More Arts Reviews
<i>Priscilla, Queen of the Desert</i>
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Long may Zach Theatre's musical Queen reign!

T. Lynn Mikeska, Oct. 21, 2016

"Meet the Beetles"
This group show celebrating the order Coleoptera in art will have you screaming "Yeah, yeah, yeah!"

Wayne Alan Brenner, Oct. 21, 2016

More by Dan Solomon
The Time of Their Lives
The Time of Their Lives
Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane reflect on the 12 years they spent making 'Boyhood'

July 18, 2014

We Were Nothing
Poison Apple's latest, about a friendship affected by social media, provides little to engage with

Dec. 20, 2013


Chicago, Texas Performing Arts, Broadway Across America, John O'Hurley, Kander and Ebb, Anne Horak, Terra C. MacLeod, Carol Woods

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)